Domestic Violence by Extended Family Members in India: Interplay of Gender and Generation

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Sage Publications


Through an analysis of 15 case studies of domestic violence reported from Bombay, India, this article explores ways in which family members, in particular female kin such as mothers-in-law, contribute to the violence perpetrated by husbands against wives. These patterns vary from the typical scenario of the lone man battering the lone woman. Structurally and culturally, older women in Indian families are subject to the authority of men, whereas supervision of younger daughters-in-law is delegated by men to older women. Older women's position as generational superiors can conflict with their loyalties to younger women on the gender hierarchy. These factors, along with the economic dependence of daughters-in-law, set the context in which domestic violence, when it occurs, can include not only the husband and wife but female kin as well. The findings lend support to the feminist perspective on the interplay of multiple social hierarchies—gender and generation in the Indian case.